Dashain is a national festival of Nepal. It last for nine days. During the festival every Nepali is stirred by the prospects of joy that this festival is supposed to bring with it. The change of mood is also induced psychologically by the turn of autumn season after a long spell of monsoon, introducing clear and brilliant days, an azure blue sky and a green carpet of fields, the climate is also just ideal at this time, it is neither too cold nor too warm. The Nepalese cherish their Dashain as time for eating well and dressing well. Each house sets up a shrine to worship the Goddess at this time.
The five days festival is marked by worshiping to different animals such as crow as represent of Yamraj, dog as represent of Heaven and cow as represent of Laxmi in succession days. The most important day is Laxmi Puja. The most endearing sight of this festival is presented by the illumination of the entire town with rows of tiny flickering lamps on Laxmi Puja. In the evening of this day, the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi is worshipped at every household and it is in her welcome that myriad of lamps are burnt. On the fifth day sisters show their affection towards their brothers with a puja, is known Bhai Tika, and feed them with delectable food. They pray for their brothers’ long life to Yama, the Hindu God of death.
Bala Chaturdashi (November)
One year after the death of any family member, the soul of the dead wanders around awaiting entrance to the underworld and it is the inescapable duty of living relatives to provide it with substance, comfort and peace once or twice each year and Bala Chaturdashi is one of them. The relatives pay homage to Pashupatinath and offer grains while taking a round of the temple.
Maghe Sankranti (January)
A Sankranti signifies the first day of any month in the Nepali calendar year. The first day of the month of Maghe, which falls in January is sacred day in Nepal, because the sun, on this day, is believed to be astrologically in a good position. It starts on its northward Journey in its heavenly course on this day, thus announcing the commencement of the Uttarayana. Nepalese belief in this day marks the division of the winter and summer solstices. Bathing in rivers is prescribed in this day, especially at the river confluence and feasting with rich foods of special preparation is common in the family.
Basanta Panchami (February)
On this day Nepalese people bid farewell to the winter season and look forward to welcome the spring season. Most of the people of Nepal worship Goddess of learning called ‘SARASWATI’. The people of Kathmandu valley go to a little shrine near Swayambhunath to worship this Goddess.
This is the most famous and celebrated festival of Nepal which attracts large crowds from far flung places both in India & Nepal. The festival is consecrated in honour of Shiva. It is observed by bathing and holding of a religious fast. All Shiva shrines become the places of visit for ‘Darshan’, but the greatest attraction of all is held by the temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu. One gets to see thousands of Hindu devotees coming to visit the temple of Pashupati. Among them are a large number of Sadhus and Naked ascetics. Many people like to keep awake for the whole night keeping vigilance over an oil lamp burnt to please Shiva. Children are seen keeping awake similarly over a bonfire in many localities. In the afternoon an official function is held to celebrate this festival at Tudikhel.
Fagu Purnima (March)
Also known as Holi is the festival of colour. It is observed for eight days just before the full moon of Phalgun and during this time people indulge in colour throwing at each other. This festival does not have any religious flavor as it is practiced in the hills of Nepal. Nevertheless, the festival has got some official status.
Ghode Jatra (April)
The festival has two sides of its celebration. Its cultural side involves the Newars of Kathmandu, who celebrates it for several days. The idols of the Gods of many localities are taken in a procession in their area in portable chariots. Every household will be feasting at this time. A demon called ‘Gurumapa’ is also propitiated at Tundikhel. The other aspect of the festival is provided by the function organized by the Nepalese Army at Tundikhel in the afternoon of the main day. Horse race and acrobatic shows are presented at this time.
Seto Matsyendranath Jatra (April)
On this day a popular festival held in honour of the Seto Matsyendranath, who is actually the Padmapani Lokeswara, whose permanent shrine is situated at Matsyendra Bahal in Kel Tole in the middle of the bazaar in Kathmandu. A huge chariot of wood supported on four large wooden wheels and carrying tall spire covered with green foliage is made ready for receiving the image of the divinity on this occasion and for dragging in the old town. There is such a spontaneous and heavy turnout of the devotees to pay homage to this God, who is also said to be the ‘Embodiment of Compassion’ at this time.
Ram Navami (April)
This day celebrates the birth of Rama, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, a prominent Hindu God. Religious fast is observed and worship is offered to Rama. A special celebration takes place at Janakpur temple of Rama and Janaki on this time.
Rato Macchindranath Jatra (May)
This festival is the biggest socio-cultural event for the Patan city. It begins with the chariot journeys of the most widely venerated deity of the Nepal valley, who resides in his twin shrines at Patan and Bungamati. His popular name is Bungamati, but non Newars call him by the name of Rato Matsyendranath. The wheeled chariot is prepared at Pulchowk and pulled through the town of Patan in several stages until several months later it reaches Jawalakhel for the final celebration of this festival called the Bhoto Jatra. The two Machhendranath of Patan and Kathmandu are form part of same cult of Avalokiteswara in the Mahayan religion.
Buddha Jayanti (May)
The day which falls on the full moon of the month of Baisakh is celebrated to commemorate the birth attainment of enlightenment and the death of Siddhartha Gautam Buddha, the founder preacher of Buddhism, more that 2500 years ago. Prayers are sung and worship is offered by the Buddhists in leading Buddhist shrines throughout the country including Lumbini in the Rupandehi district, which is the birth place of Buddha. There is a great fare held at Lumbini on this day.
Janai Purnima (August)
The full moon of the month Shrawan, the day when this festival is observed is considered sacred day all over Nepal and is celebrated in different manner by various groups of people in Nepal. However, the most widely accepted mode of celebration is that on this day all the caster take ritual bath and they change their sacred thread. Everyone gets strings of thread on his wrist from the Brahmans as a protective mark for the whole year. This day is also held sacred for bathing in Gosainkunda. One can also see a pageantry of the Jhankris attired in their traditional costume as they come to bathe at Kumbheshwor at Patan. These Jhankris also visit the temple of Kailinchowk Bhagwati in Dolakha district where they go to bet for their healing powers as they are the traditional healers of the Nepalese villages.
Gai Jatra / Cow Festival (August)
The outlook of this festival is similar to carnival in Europe. In this festival teen-aged boys addressed up as cows, parade the streets of the town. This costume springs from the belief that cows help the members of the family who died within that year to travel to heaven smoothly. Some are also dressed up as an ascetic or a fool for achieving the same objective for their dead family members. Groups of mimics improvise short satirical enactment on the current social scenes of the town for the entertainment of the public. The week beginning from Janai Purnima actually unfolds a season of many good religious and cultural activities. All the Buddhist monasteries open their gates to the visitors to view their bronze sculptures and collection of paintings for a week. At Patan, one observes the festival of Mataya at this time. The festivity of Gai Jatra itself lasts for a week enlivened by the performance of dance and drama in the different localities of the town. The spirit of the old festival is being increasingly adapted by cultural centers, newspaper and magazines to fling humor and satire on the Nepalese Social and Political life.
The day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Religious fast is observed and Krishna’s temple visited by the devotees on this day. A procession goes around the town displaying the pictures of Lord Krishna, a practice which was started in the recent years by a social organization called the Sanatan Dharma Sewa Samiti.
This is a festival for the female. On this day the Nepalese women go to Shiva temple in red colorful dresses to worship Lord Shiva. In Kathmandu Valley they go to Pashupatinath, where they worship Shiva and whatever they wish that will be fulfilled.
Indra Jatra (September)
This festival also heralds a week of religious and cultural festivity in Kathmandu. There are several phase of this festival. On the night when this festival begins members of the Buddhist family in which death has taken place within one year, go round the town limits of Kathmandu burning incense and putting lamps along the route. The same morning a tall wooden pole representing the statue of Indra and large wooden masks of Bhairab are put on display in the bazaar. Several groups of religious dance like the Devinach, Bhairava, Lakehnach, Pulukishi and Sawa Bhakku as well as Mahakalinach come into life during this week. The week also commences with pulling of chariot of Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari (the only Living Goddess) in Kathmandu down town.
Source: Nepal Tourism Board
Tiji Festival (May):
Tiji Festival is one of the biggest and most popular festivals held in Lomangthang of Upper Mustang region of Nepal. The festival is an annual event held for three days during the month of May though the dates may vary from year to year.
Derived from the phrase ‘Tempa Chirrim’, which means ‘world peace’, Tiji Festival is observed by the Mustang people to promote and disseminate the message of world peace. The highlights of the festival include special dance performance called “Tsa Chham” by the monks of nearby Gumbas. The festival centers around the tale of a demon called Ma Tum Tu Ta who was subdued by Dhorji Sonam, a reincarnation of Buddha. Hence the theme of the festival is the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Mani Rimdu Festival (Nov):
Mani Rimdu is the most important festival of the Sherpa people. It is held during the tenth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to October–November of the Gregorian calendar. It falls on the autumn season when large groups of tourists visit the Khumbu region to trek to Everest Base Camp and to witness the festival which lasts for nineteen days. The religious festivities involve ceremonies and meditation (Drupchen). The meaning attributed to "Mani Rimdu" is that ‘Mani’ means “part of the chant of Chenrezig” and ‘Rilbu’ or ‘Rimdu’ means small red pills that are blessed during the festival. The red pills are blessed repeatedly and then distributed to all those who attend.
The festival is a tradition passed on from its mother monastery, the Rongbuk. It begins with an elaborate depiction of the mandala diagram made with coloured sand. This sand is extracted from a specified location in the hills. The mandala takes four days to draw; it is then covered and is central to the religious festival that lasts for the next 10 days. The program includes 16 dance numbers with interludes for comical effect. Finally, after all the devotees have left, the monks perform a fire rite to dispel all harm to the world. The sand mandala specially created for the festival is then formally removed with prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings. At the end of the festivities the resident Tengboche Rinpoche of the monastery blesses the general public after which the 'Mask Dances' are performed by the monks. The monks perform the masked dance to usher some of the protective deities as manifestation of the legendary saint Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism; the dance numbers also display the defeat of demons and the initiation of Buddhism to Tibet.
Thus, Tengboche Monastery and Mani Rimdu are major attractions for tourists in Nepal. The number of tourists visiting the monastery is said to be about 15,000 per year and during peak tourist season the number is said to be 600 per week